Raining Blessings

This is another devotional from Streams in the DesertIt made my eyes leak. 

Gen41-52-Daffodils

God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.
—Genesis 41:52

A poet stands by the window watching a summer shower. It is a fierce downpour, beating and pounding the earth. But the poet, in his mind’s eye, sees more than a rain shower falling. He sees a myriad of lovely flowers raining down, soon breaking forth from the freshly watered earth, and filling it with their matchless beauty and fragrance. And so he sings:

It isn’t raining again to me —it’s raining daffodils;
In every dripping drop I see wildflowers upon the hills.
A cloud of gray engulfs the day, and overwhelms the town;
It isn’t raining rain to me—it’s raining roses down.

Perhaps you are undergoing some trial as God’s child, and you are saying to Him, “O God, it is raining very hard on me tonight, and this test seems beyond my power to endure. Disappointments are pouring in, washing away and utterly defeating my chosen plans. My trembling heart is grieved and is cowering at the intensity of my suffering. Surely the rains of affliction are beating down upon my soul.”

Dear friend, you are completely mistaken. God is not raining rain on you—He is raining blessings. If you will only believe your Father’s Word, you will realize that springing up beneath the pounding rain are spiritual flowers. And they are more beautiful and fragrant than those that ever grew before in your stormless and suffering-free life.

You can see the rain, but can you also see the flowers? You are suffering through these tests, but know that God sees sweet flowers of faith springing up in your life beneath these very trials. You try to escape the pain, yet God sees tender compassion for other sufferers finding birth in your soul. Your heart winces at the pain of heavy grief, but God sees the sorrow deepening and enriching your life.

No, my friend, it is not raining afflictions on you. It is raining tenderness, love, compassion, patience, and a thousand other flowers and fruits of the blessed Holy Spirit. And they are bringing to your life spiritual enrichment that all the prosperity and ease of this world could ever produce in your innermost being.  —J.M.M

Songs across the Storm

A harp stood in the calm, still air,
Where showers of sunshine washed a thousand fragrant blooms;

A traveler bowed with loads of care
Struggled from morning till the dusk of evening glooms
To strum sweet sounds from the songless strings;

The pilgrim strives in vain with each unanswering chord,
Until the tempest’s thunder sings,
And, moving on the storm, the fingers of the Lord
A wondrous melody awakes;

And though the battling winds their soldier deeds perform,
Their trumpet-sound brave music makes

While God’s assuring voice sings love across the storm.

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Godliness + Contentment

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Godliness + Contentment

By Patricia Knight

“But godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6).

We could list the aspects of our lives that have changed due to the invasion of adversity, but that exercise would not change our circumstances. Instead of stressing the negative, why not accentuate the positive? List the gains rather than the losses. Reflect on the people you’ve met, the introspection you’ve gained, the spiritual strength and dependency that has grown, the patience learned, and the ability to mature in your faith.

If we are able to combine our faith with personal well-being, then improvement or enrichment will result. We have learned the secret for peace of mind. Following God, no matter what occurs in our lives, believing that whatever He chooses is best for us, and telling others about God’s goodness and grace, will all contribute toward our personal and spiritual riches.

1Thes5-18-HandSilhouetteSunset-35--AMPAs difficult as it may seem, we can develop a greater dependency upon our Lord even during afflictions. Therefore, we can go forward to accomplish whatever God asks us to do for Him, not in spite of pain, but because of it. We are commanded to “give thanks in all circumstances”(1 Thessalonians 5:18). The thankfulness we express is not an appreciation for leading a restricted, hurtful life, but rather it is a means of recognizing and showing gratitude for God’s sovereign leadership in our lives. Whatever He plans for us is perfect in its design and timing. 

Learning patience and perseverance produces a stronger faith. We learn those attributes by practicing them. Our hardship gives us reason to develop positive and useful emotional tools—those with which we can reach out to others in their time of need.  Christian maturity will follow.

When God has something to teach us, He may set us aside in order to instruct us in life’s lessons. The experience we gain will be invaluable in serving a loving, faithful God and others.

“Godliness + contentment = great gain”
is a method of expressing the verse as a formula for life.
It defines a spiritual goal for us—
one that God honors.

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Happy Father’s Day to the “Really” Fathers

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Father’s Day can be joyful and full of love and happy memories. You probably had a father who showed his love for you in many ways, every single day. These are the fathers who selflessly spent time with us and encouraged us.

Some of us may have grown up without a father, or a series of events took our father away from us. Possibly we had a father who caused us harm or didn’t love us.

And then there are those of us who were adopted by “really” fathers. That’s what this sweet Father’s Day video is about. In it Levi and Lia tell the story of their journey from fatherless to fatherfull.

Beloved, there is a Father who cares for and loves each one of us with a love that cannot be understood. This is so difficult for us to believe, and yet it is true. God loves us with an unending love that never fades. Hold onto that when you’re tempted to feel “less than” or down about your upbringing.

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Fearful Hands

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All hands will go limp; every man’s heart will melt.
Terror will seize them, pain and anguish will grip them.
—Isaiah 3:7-8

Fearful Hands

By Patricia Knight

“Hands hang limp,” a description used four times in the Old Testament, is a metaphor expressing fear or failing courage. Isaiah 3:7-8 records, “All hands will go limp; every man’s heart will melt. Terror will seize them, pain and anguish will grip them.” A typical reaction to intense fear is a limp, incapable mind and body. We freeze in our most ineffectual state. Doubts assail us; fear paralyzes us.

Jesus had just miraculously fed in excess of 5,000 men with a boy’s lunch of five barley loaves and two fish. After the baskets of extra food were gathered, Jesus commanded His disciples to go ahead of Him and cross the lake by boat while he dismissed the crowd. Then Jesus slipped away into the mountains for solitary prayer.

Imagine that you were one of Jesus’ disciples. By now it was dark. Jesus had left your group, assuring you He would rejoin you in Bethsaida. Each of you were familiar with the demands of navigation on the local waterways. Several of you were fisherman by trade, having spent your lifetime coaxing a living from the sea. Your group of disciples had rowed three and a half miles into the lake in the pitch darkness. There were no lighthouses or emergency flares; just total blackness.

From Jesus’ outlook on the mountain, He could see you, His beloved disciples, struggling at the oars as the wind buffeted your boat. “At the fourth watch of the night {between 3:00 and 6:00 am} he went out to them, walking on the lake” (Mark 6:48).  

Distracted by the wind storm and thinking only of survival, you disciples worked as a team to keep your boat on course. Suddenly, out of the dark, tumultuous night appeared what you interpreted to be a ghost. With terror in your hearts, you cried out in shock. You had learned the superstitions about spirits in the night, causing disasters. Perhaps this was a water spirit which you had heard spoken about in hushed tones by the elders who told of experiences encountered during their lifetime of boating and fishing.

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Immediately he spoke to them and said,
“Take courage! It is I.
Don’t be afraid.”

Then he climbed into the boat with them,
and the wind died down.
They were completely amazed.
—Mark 6:50-51

In response to your fear, Jesus immediately “spoke to them and said, ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’ Then He climbed into the boat with them and the wind died down. They were completely amazed” (Mark 6:50-51). Not one of you had recognized Jesus until He spoke. Little did you realize when Jesus walked on the water toward your boat, He was displaying the majestic presence and authority of His Lordship, ruling over the waves. As His Word testifies of Him, “You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them” (Psalm 89:9).

God commands, “Do not fear…; do not let your hands hang limp” (Zephaniah 3:16).  Though hands hanging limp is an alternative method to explain fear, I wonder if the disciples’ hands dropped their oars during that frightful, majestic night when Jesus appeared to His chosen men by walking on water?

How often do our hands hang limp when what we need is a surge of heavenly courage and power similar to the promise Moses gave Joshua centuries ago.

“’Be strong and courageous… The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged’” (Deuteronomy 31:7-8).

Deut31-7-8-StrongBarbedWire--AMPOur experiences with fear may not be as visually explicit as witnessing our Master walk on the surface of water before our eyes. Nevertheless, our fears are just as real. Do such tragedies as developing cancer, being victimized with identity theft, or suddenly losing all of  our earthly possessions in a natural disaster, instill fear in our hearts? Do we allow panic and anxiety to wash over us like raging ocean waves, or do we grab the oars and look to the Master of the Seas as our Source of help?  Our head as well as our hands often hang limp with discouragement in an emergency situation. However, God has promised to care for His own, to provide for all our needs, and to give us victory in conflict.

Joseph was shamefully treated by his brothers when they forced him into a cistern and sold him as a slave to passing merchants. He was then sold to the captain of the guard in Egypt where he prospered, but without warning he was falsely accused of a crime and thrown into prison where he remained for several years, seemingly forgotten!

Job, known and admired as a model citizen who loved and served God, was victimized by having his property burned, his animals stolen, his children killed, and his health so compromised, he was humiliated, grieving, and in constant pain.

The Israelites, God’s chosen people, had suffered in servitude to the Egyptians as brick makers for centuries. They felt hopeless and helpless, waiting for God to rescue them from their cruel taskmasters.

Do any of our fears compare to what Bible characters suffered centuries ago? Perhaps our experiences pale in comparison or we could be dealing with much more horrendous hardships. The Israelites, Joseph, and Job all feared for their lives. Their circumstances reversed when God intervened, working out individual life plans, blessing them richly. Their catastrophic life stories are contained in God’s Word so we can learn from their mistakes and their victories. We aren’t so different from those biblical figures who suffered hardship, disease, and injustice. Their ultimate victory was a gift from God who loved them deeply, just as He does us.

God’s promises have remained constant throughout the centuries. “Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared” (Proverbs 3:25, 26). God is worthy of our trust. With promises so personal and profound, why not permanently put fear to rest and rely on God’s rich mercy and grace? Don’t let your hands hang limp, but trust your Lord enough to grasp His hands and walk in step with Him day-by-day.

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Adjusting to Serious Illness

This is an excellent article from CFIDS & Fibromyalgia Self-Help. It is not easy to live with chronic illness, whether you’re the patient, the caregiver, friend or family member. Included in this article are ten practical ways that patients and their families can use to make their households and relationships work better.

Adjusting to Serious Illness:
Strategies for Patients and Their Families

By Bruce Campbell

CFS and fibromyalgia force profound adjustments, both for patients and for those around them. Household tasks are juggled, finances are often strained, and all family members wonder what the future will bring. What strategies will help you and your family adjust if you are struggling with the disruptions created by CFS or FM?

Understanding Your Unique Situation

The foundation of an effective response is understanding your unique situation. Every family’s circumstances are different. Just as each patient must individualize his or her self-management strategy, families need to develop a response to CFS or FM that fits their individual circumstances.

The scope of adjustments will be dictated by the seriousness of the patient’s health problems. CFS and fibromyalgia vary greatly in severity. The average person in our self-help program reports that she functions at about 25% of normal, but there are sizeable numbers who are housebound, while others are less affected and continue to work part time or full time. The severity of medical issues will set the limits on the amount of adjustment required.

The family’s financial situation is also crucial. Some families can afford to let the ill person stop working or have her take an early retirement, while others are stretched financially and may be forced to make financial adjustments of various kinds. The presence or absence of children and, if present, their ages is significant. Couples with school-age children have to juggle work and child care. Those with adult children may get help from their kids. The health of the spouse is another important factor. In some families, both spouses are ill or a normally-healthy spouse has a health emergency like a heart attack or surgery.

A final factor is the strength of the bond between the partners. Some marriages are made stronger by illness, while others become frayed and still others break. The response of the well spouse to illness may vary from strong support, on the one hand, to disbelief, abuse and abandonment on the other. Some people in our groups, who have had multiple marriages report that they have experienced the full range of possible responses, most commonly a lack of support in an initial relationship and understanding in a later one.

Ten Strategies

Here are ten ideas for how families can adapt to CFS or FM.

SeriousIllness10Strategies

Read the rest here

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God’s Presence in Pain

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Scripture reminds us that God’s presence does not equal
pain’s absence.
However, because of God’s presence,
pain’s potency
is limited.
Difficult times may certainly lead to dark days,
but dark days need not mean defeat.
Ask God to give you strength to call on Him,
even in the darkest moments of life.

Begin this day crying out to the Lord.
Wait expectantly for His answer and trust His presence.
—Paul Purvis, 
First Baptist Church Temple Terrace
Temple Terrace, FL

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God Knows What You’re Going Through

If you’ve ever thought that God is not aware of your pains and frustrations, your fear or crying during sleepless nights, please take the time to read Franklin Graham’s account of what occurred during his recent trip to Myanmar. 

Franklin Graham:
Whatever You Are Going Through—
God Knows

Dear Friend,

A few weeks ago I traveled to Myanmar, a nation once known as Burma. We’ll be holding a Crusade there at the end of next year, and I met with pastors and members of the Crusade committee. This is a country that has been under military dictatorship for the last 50 years or so, and churches have been under severe restrictions.

Things are beginning to change now, and we are thankful that churches are gaining some freedom. People are hopeful. As you can imagine, there is a lot of planning and groundwork that needs to be done far in advance of the Crusade, and we would appreciate your prayers. This is the first time the churches in this area have cooperated for an evangelistic effort like this, and we are asking God to work in a mighty way.

Myanmar is a Buddhist country, and it has one of the most famous Buddhist temples in the world, the Shwedagon (or Golden) Pagoda. Thousands upon thousands of people go there to pray to the lifeless statues of Buddha. As I witnessed this in person, I thought of the story in the book of Daniel where King Belshazzar and the people “praised the gods of silver and gold, bronze and iron, wood and stone.” Almighty God responded with handwriting on the wall, and Daniel was called to interpret the writing. He delivered God’s judgment upon King Belshazzar for worshiping gods “which do not see or hear or know” (Daniel 5:23, NKJV) and for failing to honor the God who gave them breath.

Read more here.

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I Wonder – Followup

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Last week I was looking back at some of my first posts, back in 2011. My second post was titled “I Wonder…” When I read it again, I was struck by how much has happened and yet stayed the same since then. Hmm… isn’t that considered a paradox?

This is what I wrote then.

Lately I’ve been wondering about the deeper meaning of life. I mean, what if this is all there is?

I read this earlier today:

“If I see God in everything, He will calm and color everything I see! Perhaps the circumstances causing my sorrows will not be removed and my situation will remain the same, but if Christ is brought into my grief and gloom as my Lord and Master, He will “surround me with songs of deliverance” (Psalm 32:7).”

Now, I have to start by saying that I do try to see God in everything, but I’m not really sure about that “calm and color everything I see” stuff. When I live with yet another migraine (and this current one has lasted almost all week), hear about helpless hurting children, view photos depicting yet another flood or earthquake, read about another tax hike-pay cut-employee cutback-home foreclosure, or simply stand by the side of a close friend struggling just to make ends meet, I ask myself again: what is life really all about? Are we simply here to suffer through life’s challenges and then die? Or is there something more?

We all have a yearning to know the reasons behind our circumstances—that desire to justify the bad things that happen to us. If we seek to do what is right, help others who are in need, and are very careful to not hurt anyone or anything, why must we still suffer?

I don’t have the answers, although I know Who does. Stay tuned…

Fast forward 4 years to where I now am physically.

Every day is a new adventure in pain. I still live with several chronic pain illnesses: Fibromyalgia (FMS), Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS), and chronic migraines. CFIDS is also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME).

Some people with FMS or CFS/CFIDS/ME get better over time. Others get worse, and I’m in this group. Add to this that my migraines now assault me daily. We live at a 5500 foot elevation, and my doctor told me once that she believes my body never has adjusted to living in a high elevation area, even though we’ve been here for almost eleven years.

Every prescription medication I’ve tried for any of these illnesses has either not worked for me or caused huge side effects. Alternative therapies such as acupressure, acupuncture, biofeedback, chiropractic or massage only work as long as it takes to administer the therapy. Several years ago I used to work out several times a week, until I realized that exercising through my pain was causing even worse migraines.

Does this get me down? My feelings try to make me feel frustrated and helpless about all of this. But read on to find out the one Reason I can grab hold of those feelings before they take over.

This leads to what’s going on now with me spiritually.

I am more convinced than ever that God is with me every single day. My true hope is in Jesus Christ and this is what carries me through each day. On days like today when I’m going through yet another FMS/CFS flare and everything I do causes even more pain, migraines and nausea, I struggle with all of this.

Not the why of it, because I know everything in my life is part of God’s plan for me. It’s the persistence … the everydayness of it … that is wearying. 

These days, my life is a very delicate balance. I need to weigh everything. If I want to do something as simple as the laundry, I need to allow for rest time before as well as afterward. And most times there is payback after the activity even if I have rested well beforehand. It is very frustrating.

In spite of all that, there persists in me a joyful hope that never fails to uplift my heart. I know without a doubt that God is always with me throughout all of it. And if anyone can truly understand my pain, it is Jesus. He not only understands it, He holds me close in His arms and comforts me when I am in pain and feel discouraged. He is my God of hope. He helps me cling to that hope, which turns my frustration and weariness into joy and peace.

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May the God of hope fill you with all joy
and peace as you trust in him,
so that you may overflow with hope
by the power of the Holy Spirit.
—Romans 15:13

Beloved, please remember that if we completely place our trust in God, He will fill us with hope, joy and peace. The more we trust in Him, the more He supplies all the hope, joy and peace we need every single day.

Hope in God is saying “no” to fear or discouragement, and by so doing, saying “yes” to something that will satisfy much more down the line. Wait on God, believing that what God has planned is so much better that what we grab for ourselves! —Joni Eareckson Tada

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Mortal Meets Immortal

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Envision that you are standing in the very presence of Jesus when He walked this earth, so close you could reach out to touch the Savior as He healed all manner of illness and disability. Most diseases in Jesus’ day had no cure. Imagine celebrating exuberantly with those individuals who, within seconds, were transformed from a life of physical or mental misery into complete health. Those who formerly depended on others to provide their most basic bodily needs were suddenly transformed to wellness and independent living by a mere word from Jesus.

A desperate woman who had suffered a hemorrhagic affliction for twelve years, had exhausted her finances consulting numerous physicians, with no relief. Her life was limited; constant bleeding rendered her unclean, preventing her from worshiping in the temple. She had heard that the Healer was in town, so she devised a plan. Her most critical aspiration was jostling through the tightly congested crowd pressing against Jesus. She was convinced that a slight touch of Jesus’ flowing outer cloak would be sufficient to transfer Jesus’ healing powers to her ravaged body. Whether the diseased woman’s scheme was pre-meditated or if she acted on impulse, we will never know. Of one fact we can be sure—she needed her plan to succeed.

“‘Who touched me?’ Jesus asked.” (Luke 8:45).

Being exposed wasn’t part of the woman’s plan. She commingled with the crowd engulfing Jesus, intending to quickly touch Jesus’ clothing, discreetly slipping away healed and unnoticed. It isn’t Jesus’ method to perform healings on demand. He came to earth as the Son of God to accomplish the will of His Father in heaven, to obey Him explicitly, and to bring glory to His name. Jesus wouldn’t permit the woman to recede into the crowd before He announced her healing and she made a public profession of faith.

Photo credit: Wikimedia

Photo credit: Wikimedia

“Jesus said, ‘Someone touched me. I know that power has gone out from me’” (Luke 5:46).

With crowds of people encircling Jesus, it was inevitable that several in the group casually brushed His clothing or unintentionally bumped against Him. Jesus knew the one who contacted Him hadn’t brushed His clothing accidentally. The woman’s touch was different and distinct; light but intentional. She probably stretched her arm to its maximum length from as far away as possible, believing that a delicate touch of Jesus’ garment would harbor sufficient strength that would transfer to her body.

When Jesus inquired about the person in the crowd who had touched Him, the disciples were incredulous. Peter addressed the peculiar question for all of them. “‘Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you’” (Luke 8:46b). The disciples thought it futile to seek out one elusive person among a massive crowd of admirers.

“Then the woman seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling at his feet. In the presence of all the people she told why she had touched him, and how she had been instantly healed” (Luke 5:47). Mortals cannot touch the immortal without phenomenal results occurring. The mortal is always empowered or energized; changes occur like fireworks illuminating a pitch black sky.

Jesus didn’t touch the woman; she reached out to touch Jesus, resulting in an instant healing.

“Then he said to her, ’Daughter your faith has healed you. Go in peace.’” (Luke 5:47-48). In the Gospel accounts this woman is the only individual Jesus addressed as daughter, a tender, loving term Jesus used to express compassion for her and praise for her faith.

When we approach Jesus in prayer, is it with a believing heart overflowing with trust? Or do we, like some in the crowd, doubt a brush with Jesus will have lasting consequences? We are commanded to exemplify a solid belief in Jesus, reflecting faith, convinced that Jesus has an ultimate purpose for our individual lives. “Confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6).

The woman touched Jesus with intent, convinced that when she boldly reached out to Him, Jesus would respond with healing powers. Jesus never disappoints! Let us react in prayer like the suffering woman Jesus commended for her faith, unlike the crowds of complacent curiosity seekers who knew not the depth of love and power in their midst.

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“For God didn’t give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).

We may not physically stand in the presence of Jesus today, but He is ever-present in our lives, encouraging us to commune with him through prayer. Like the woman who was determined to touch Jesus’ garment, our outreach may be vague, even tentative, but with boldness and confidence we are privileged to call on Almighty God, knowing He answers each of our prayers. Jesus is just as accessible to us in prayer as His physical presence was real to the suffering woman. She approached Jesus with confidence and courage, the methods with which we are commanded to pray. The difference is that the woman walked toward Jesus physically trembling in fear. We are not to fear Jesus, but to reverence Him with a prayerful attitude of boldness and strength.

Jesus-Spotlight-50--AMPWithout a doubt, Jesus performs healing miracles in our current age. Jesus is more available to us today than He was to the people who solicited His attention centuries ago. We need not push through crowds to reach Him; our faint call of Jesus’ name alerts Him to our needs immediately, assuring us of His undivided attention. He then responds from His throne in heaven, adjusting His responses to conform to His sovereign plans for our individual hearts.

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At “Wits’ End Corner”

I’ve had my paperback version of Streams in the Desert devotional for years. It is probably my favorite devotional book. As you can see, I have read it so many times that I need two heavy-duty rubber bands to hold it together. It’s difficult to see, but the photo on the left shows the blue one that holds a big section of pages together. The pink one keeps the binding from slipping off.

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I received an iPad as a 2013 Christmas gift from my children, so I now have an extensive Kindle library on it, including a digital version of this book. And of course, I’m reading it again this year. When I read the May 23rd devotional, this poem leaped out at me as if I’d never seen it before. My eyes leaked as I read it, and I’m guessing yours will too. 

Are you standing at “Wits’ End Corner,”
Christian, with troubled brow?
Are you thinking of what is before you,
And all you are bearing now?
Does all the world seem against you,
And you in the battle alone?
Remember—at “Wits’ End Corner”
Is just where God’s power is shown.

Are you standing at “Wits’ End Corner,”
Blinded with wearying pain,
Feeling you cannot endure it,
You cannot bear the strain,
Bruised through the constant suffering,
Dizzy, and dazed, and numb?
Remember—at “Wits’ End Corner”
Is where Jesus loves to come.

Are you standing at “Wits’ End Corner”?
Your work before you spread,
All lying begun, unfinished,
And pressing on heart and head,
Longing for strength to do it,
Stretching out trembling hands?
Remember—at “Wits’ End Corner”
The Burden-Bearer stands.

Are you standing at “Wits’ End Corner”?
Then you’re just in the very spot
To learn the wondrous resources
Of Him who fails you not: 
No doubt to a brighter pathway
Your footsteps will soon be moved,
But only at “Wits’ End Corner”
Is the “God who is able” proved.
-Antoinette Wilson

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